O’Melveny Myers has been retained by lobbying group Airlines for America (A4A) in a challenge to Massachusetts’ state sick leave laws, two months after bringing a similar case in Washington state.

The suit, filed on 4 April against the attorney general for Massachusetts, seeks an exemption from the state’s 2015 Earned Sick Time Law for pilots and aircrew, arguing that the regulation violates limits placed on state lawmakers by the US Constitution.

The law, which requires employers to provide a minimum of one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked by employees, allegedly has the potential to cause “substantial harm” to A4A’s member airlines by interfering with nationwide attendance and reliability policies and impairing airlines’ ability to investigate absences.

A4A – which counts American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, UPS and United Airlines among its members – says compliance with the law will result in more employee absences for airlines that operate out of airports in Massachusetts, with subsequent increases in flight delays and cancellations.

The suit comes under two months after A4A filed a similar claim against the Washington state Department of Labor & Industries in federal court in Seattle, arguing its member airlines should be exempt from the state’s Paid Sick Leave Act.

Both lawsuits accuse the local legislatures of violating the US Constitution’s Dormant Commerce Clause, which limits the power of states to make laws that affect interstate businesses. A4A says Congress’s oversight of the aviation industry is already “intensive and exclusive”, and that the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act expressly prevents states from introducing rules that affect airlines’ prices, routes or services.

A4A says the Massachusetts and Washington laws risk making its members subject to a “patchwork” of inconsistent state regimes, as well as “onerous and unreasonable” administrative costs. The group says “at least 36 state and local jurisdictions currently require and regulate paid sick leave,” and argues that attempts to comply with all of these requirements will cause “confusion”, exposing airlines to a “flood” of lawsuits and enforcement proceedings.

O’Melveny partners Robert Siegel and Chris Hollinger are advising A4A in both actions. Local counsel in Massachusetts is being provided by Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart. 

In the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Judge Allison Burroughs

Counsel to the Air Transport Association of America (Airlines for America)

  • O’Melveny & Myers LLP

Chris Hollinger in San Francisco and Robert Siegel in Los Angeles

  • Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart

David Mason in Boston.